BROSSARD – With dates against three of the best teams in the East on tap in a four-night span, no one in the Habs room is expecting an easy end to the week.
Following Tuesday night’s loss to the Western Conference’s second-place St. Louis Blues, the Canadiens will have their work cut out for them to get back on track. Facing the second-ranked Bruins in Boston before coming home to take on the NHL-leading Rangers and surging Senators may not seem like the ideal way to start piling up points in the second half of the year, but Randy Cunneyworth has faith in his team’s ability to play up to the competition.
“Playing against good teams usually brings out the best in our team and that’s exactly what we hope to see tomorrow,” confirmed the Habs coach, whose team is 2-2 against the Bruins this season. “The objective is to play our system, execute our system and play desperate hockey. The desperation can’t come at the end; you have to be desperate from the opening faceoff right through the whole game.
“The team we’re playing tomorrow is one of the best teams in the league,” he added. “They just won a Stanley Cup and they play that simple game and they’re executing. That’s what we need to do to be successful.”
Having outscored the Bruins 8-7 in four meetings, edged the Rangers 7-5 in two games so far this year and compiled a perfect 2-0 record – including an 8-3 advantage in goals – against the Sens, the Habs have proven their ability to come ready to play against the NHL’s best this season.
“There’s no better way to make a statement that last night was just a little blip on the radar than by showing up and competing tomorrow night,” mentioned Mathieu Darche. “We’re facing some of the best teams in the league and we need to show some character to battle with them. We’ve played well against the Bruins so far this year so that’s a good place to start.”
After being beaten in back-to-back games by the Habs in October, the Bruins have gone on to compile a stellar 24-4-1 record. Darche knows that didn’t happen by accident and he’s looking to steal of page from Boston’s book on Thursday night.
“Good teams in this league all play the same way. They play simple, they come back with five guys and they attack with five guys. We’re going to expect the same from the Bruins; we’ve played them four times already this year so we know what to expect,” stressed the 35-year-old winger. “We expect a physical game and we can’t just take it; we have to dish it out, too. That’s what we’ll have to do tomorrow to be successful.”
Carey Price and Max Pacioretty both took therapy days on Wednesday. Price was replaced between the pipes by Habs goaltending coach Pierre Groulx.
Randy Cunneyworth didn’t confirm his starting goalie for Thursday’s game but mentioned that Peter Budaj will get his sixth start of the season at some point during the pending three-games-in-four-nights stretch.
Captain Brian Gionta won’t accompany the team to Boston after suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday night’s game against the Blues. Injured center Scott Gomez has not yet been cleared by the medical staff but he will make the trip to Boston.
Ryan White is still skating alone with Canadiens strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard but is hoping to join his teammates on the ice for practices in the near future.
“I hope so. It’s getting boring out there just me and Petey,” joked White. “I feel pretty good but I don’t feel 100% and I don’t feel I’m back where I need to be. It’s going the right way and I’m feeling better than I was last week and I just want to keep that going the right way.”
Yannick Weber practiced with the first power play unit on Wednesday morning and is likely to make his return to action on Thursday after being a healthy scratch for the past three games .
Belleville Bulls netminder – and P.K. Subban’s younger brother – Malcolm Subban topped NHL Central Scouting’s list for North American goaltenders released on Wednesday morning. The 18-year-old has registered a 1.93 goals-against average to go with a sparkling .938 save percentage so far in 2011-12.
Lines at practice
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com. SEE ALSOThe return
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